At last, the Public Inquiry has started to consider the Planning Appeal by Peel and Marshalls who want to construct and operate an Anaerobic Digestion (“AD”) Plant at Fletcher Bank in Ramsbottom.
Tuesday 10 March saw the opening of the Inquiry before Mr Ian Jenkins, the Planning Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.
The public inquiry is very similar to a Court hearing. Each party gives evidence to the Inspector and their witnesses are subject to cross-examination. It is open to the public. It is held in the Elizabethan Suite at Bury Town Hall.
After a number of administrative matters, it was the turn of Bury Council, Peel/Marshalls and our residents group, Ramsbottom Against the Waste Site (“RAWS”) to give their opening statements.
Bury Council are defending their decision to refuse planning permission for the proposed plant as they considered that it was inappropriate development in the Green Belt and that there would be a severely detrimental impact on residents and others from odours.
Bury Council and Peel/Marshalls are represented by legal teams, headed by Barristers. RAWS has no legal team, but residents are represented by Shuttleworth residents, Dr Peter Jackson, Colin Butterworth and myself.
Indeed, the RAWS committee (of which there are 6 of us) have spent literally hundreds of hours ploughing through paperwork, preparing witness statements, statements of case etc to put forward our case to the Planning Inspector. A tough job when we are all volunteers and all have families and careers.
The Inspector had indicated that he had already been on an unaccompanied site visit to Fletcher Bank Quarry and had also visited Shuttleworth and the area around Peel Brow Primary School.
The Inspector then heard from all three Ramsbottom Councillors who gave evidence on behalf of residents opposing the proposed AD Plant.
Wednesday 11 March was the turn of Bury Council to give evidence. They utilised the services of John Martin from the Greater Manchester Waste Planning Unit as regards planning issues and also Nichola Gannon, an Environmental Consultant, to give evidence in relation to air quality and odour.
We also heard an announcement from the Secretary of State that he had agreed with Ramsbottom MP, David Nuttall’s request for the decision to be “called-in” or “recovered” so that the Secretary of State can make the final decision himself rather than the planning inspector.
Thursday 12 March saw further evidence from Ms Gannon and cross-examination of the Council’s witnesses by Peel / Marshalls.
Friday 13 March was the opportunity for Ramsbottom MP, David Nuttall, to present his evidence to the Inspector, again representing local residents in their fight against this proposed AD Plant.
After a request from RAWS, the Inspector agreed to an evening session on Monday 16 March to hear local residents’ concerns about the proposals. RAWS spent all weekend gathering evidence from residents who were happy to speak and be subject to cross-examination.
Monday 16 March was the turn of RAWS to present their case. First up was Dr Peter Jackson, who was presenting evidence on concerns about the potential for releases of odours into the atmosphere over Ramsbottom and concerns about air quality. A lot of technical data was advanced and Dr Jackson was subjected to extensive and rigorous cross-examination.
The evening session saw contributions from local residents. We saw some passionate speeches on a range of issues. We would particularly like to thank:
Martin Purdy, Rob Archer, Dr Falmai Binns, Pamela Smart, Rob Abrahamsen, Steven Berrisford, Gregg Fletcher, Ray McClellan, Simon Murphy, Dr Emad El-Malek and Craig Flint.
Tuesday 17 March saw detailed evidence from Colin Butterworth from RAWS on traffic issues – concerns about Whalley Road, Manchester Road, Peel Brow, Bury New Road and the town centre. Again, Colin was subject to extensive cross-examination.
It was then my turn to advance the case for RAWS on planning issues – in particular protecting the Green Belt issues. I was subject to vigorous and extensive cross-examination too.
We were pleased to have Glen Duckett at the Inquiry, the owner of the Eagle and Child who gave evidence about the economic impact not only to his restaurant but also to businesses across Ramsbottom and the town centre.
It was then the turn of Peel / Marshalls to commence presenting their case to the Inspector. They have lined up 7 witnesses in total to give evidence to convince the Inspector that the development should go ahead.
The Inquiry will continue on Wednesday 18 March with further evidence from Peel / Marshalls.
Thursday 19 March will see a site visit to Tamar Energy’s AD Waste Plant in Halstead, Essex.
The Inquiry will then adjourn until Monday 23 March where Peel will continue giving their evidence and there will be cross-examination by the legal team from the Council and RAWS team. The Inspector will also sit on Tuesday 24 March.
Tuesday 31 March will see Peel / Marshalls give their final evidence. This is followed by closing arguments from RAWS, Bury Council and Peel / Marshalls.
Wednesday 1 April is the date planned for a formal site visit to Fletcher Bank.
The Inquiry is then expected to close. The Inspector will then prepare a report for the Secretary of State who will make a final decision on whether the AD Plant should be built. It is not expected that a decision will be made before June 2015.
Sincere thanks for your support so far for your RAWS team. We will keep you updated.
Best wishes, Ian & your RAWS Team
PS – Feel free to leave us a comment!